Jan. 4, 2010
Ariana Gnekow's dream as a child was to come to UC Santa Barbara to play basketball. After attending countless youth camps in the Thunderdome, the Santa Ynez native envisioned herself one day putting on the blue and gold jersey and being part of one of the most successful programs at UCSB.
Instead of playing elsewhere after graduating from Santa Ynez High, Gnekow walked on to the women's basketball team and ended up playing all but one game as a freshman - including three starts - in 2006-07.
The following season, head coach Mark French awarded Gnekow a scholarship. This year, as a senior, Gnekow was voted to be one of the Gauchos' three captains.
A 5-foot-9 guard who has played in all of UCSB's 13 games this season with four starts, Gnekow sat down recently to answer questions about her dream of becoming a Gaucho and other queries about herself.
1. Can you talk about playing basketball not far from where you grew up? I've always wanted to be a Gaucho. It's a dream come true. I feel like it's a privilege to be a Gaucho. My mom taught me that it was a privilege. Being close to home and having the support of my family and the basketball part of it and being independent but being close to home - I wouldn't have it any other way. That's why I was a walk-on and Coach French gave me the opportunity. I went to all the Gaucho camps when I was younger so I've been playing in the Thunderdome a long time. When Kristi Rohr and Erin Alexander played, I grew up watching them - in Santa Ynez and then at UCSB.
2. Describe your transformation during your career here? There was no change from being a walk-on to a scholarship player. There was no change. I was treated the same. Coach French made that known. I was playing like everybody else and I got the same amount of reps in practice and I felt like I had a voice even as a freshman and a walk-on. Becoming a captain was awesome. It was a shock just because my junior year I didn't get that many minutes and I thought that being a captain the way you get respect was by playing time and production. With our program it wasn't like that. I think my work ethic in practice played a huge role in me becoming a captain. When I was on the bench I would cheer my heart out and felt that I had an opinion that was respected. I'm honored and I hope that I'm not letting them down.
3. If you were on a deserted island and could only bring three things what would they be? I can't bring people? OK. The "Twilight" book series, chapstick (I can't go anywhere without my chap stick) and suntan lotion.
4. What is your favorite food? Sushi. The Philadelphia roll. Anything with raw salmon.
5. What are you favorite things to do when you're not playing basketball? Hang out with my family and friends, relax and watch "Wife Swap" with my roommates.
6. What is your favorite movie and your favorite quote from the movie? The Hangover. There's so many quotes from that movie. "I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack."
7. What are your post-basketball/UCSB plans? I'm hoping to walk in June. I will have to take three more classes in the summer. But once I'm done I am planning on going to nursing school in L.A.
8. What was it like playing against your sister who is a coach at Westmont? It was fun. It was fun for my family because they had to coordinate their outfits with Westmont gear and UCSB. It was a good game and neither of us blew each other out. It was neutral at the end. I'm glad we won, she's a little bitter.
9. Favorite off day activity? A Sunday off day - church with my dad and our favorite breakfast place. The other off days - if it's nice outside I'll go to the beach.
10. Do you have words or a motto that you live by? I think a lot of quotes are inspiring but I cannot think of one off my head other than be myself and stay true to myself.
11. Describe what a captain does for this team. Everyone has a voice and everyone fires each other up but whatever the team says you relay it to the coaches, you have the captain's meetings. It's like a communicator between the coaches and the team. It is firing up your teammates if we are having a bad practice. It is the captain's responsibility to get the team together. I think the freshmen look up to the captains to do that.
12. Why do you wear No. 12? I was always 11 through high school but when I got to UCSB, 11 was taken by Sha'Rae Gibbons so I took 12.
13. All three of your sisters played basketball. What was that like growing up and who is the best? We're all good in our own ways because we all play different positions. When my sister Meghan played basketball and I got to high school, she was in college at USC and she was like a coach and was in Division I basketball when I got there. Briana only played at Biola for a year and she was a good shooter. My twin, Erin, and Briana played together and it was fun to have two sisters on the same team in high school. It was really fun when we played our high school alumni game and it was nice because we had almost a whole starting group out of there of Gnekows. Bri would always help me with my shot, Erin (who played at Cal Poly Pomona) would help me with dribbling and Meghan would help with everything else.
14. For being a guard you have a knack for getting rebounds, how does that work? When I started playing I was taller which is hard to believe. I was a post until my junior year of high school. I was just taught that some things you can't control like your shot. But, always hustling and your effort you can control and I feel that rebounding is an effort thing and that's something you can't get wrong. It's something I can control no matter what. I also don't have to think about it, it's not so technical.
15. What's been your favorite Gaucho road trip in your career and why? Probably going to Virginia Beach for the NCAA Tournament my sophomore year. We felt like celebrities getting on a private plane. The hotels were just so welcoming. I love Virginia Beach - it was a touristy town. It was a good bonding trip. It was really fun. We got to do a lot of fun things.
16. What is your favorite indulgence? Chocolate.
17. If you could live anywhere else, where would it be? Portland. I think it's beautiful. I've always wanted to live in a bigger city and I feel it's a clean, big city with a balance of activities.
18. You live on a ranch in Santa Ynez, how many animals do you have? I have a wiener dog named Kirby, we have a golden retriever named Cody, a Chihuahua named Princess, a pit bull named Dallas, we have a black mixed dog named Shatter, we have a German Shepherd named Oso. We sold our horses - had three at one point - we have an Alpaca farm on our land (we rent that out so they're not technically ours), we rent out another part of our land and a guy put a lot of goats and chickens and horses there. We used to have three peacocks, a pig and a hedgehog.
19. When you graduate, what will you miss most about UCSB and playing here? The team. I mean, everything actually. I'll miss the whole basketball aspect because I've been playing since third grade so it will be weird to wake up and not have that. The team is everything. I'll miss being in college and have to grow up; it's been the best four years because of UCSB and because of basketball. I'll probably be a Fastbreaker so I'll still be around.
20. Any post-graduate plans besides nursing school? I want to learn how to surf.